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Report: Global lesbian-baiting attempts to stifle women's activism

Susana Fried of IGLHRC says women are silenced by gay-baiting. Executive Director Paula Ettelbrick sees the attacks directly hampering women in leadership from actively supporting gay rights issues.

Both the Village Voice and Planet Out have stories on the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission‘s report, “Written Out: How Sexuality is Used to Attack Women’s Organizing.” It’s sobering news about the constant barrage of gay-baiting used to smear and discredit women that dare to challenge the status quo. It is sadly still the norm. (Planet Out):

“With the rise of fundamentalism in both the U.S. and abroad, we are seeing that women who take public leadership on any range of issues are on the receiving end of very calculated attacks,” says Susana Fried, IGLHRC’s program director. “We want to connect the dots to show how women’s sexuality is manipulated in this specific and increasingly common way to discredit and silence women around the world.”

The 189-page report, written by Cynthia Rothschild, documents examples of such attacks in countries ranging from the United States to Argentina, India, Thailand, Costa Rica and more. “If a woman is single, she’s attacked as a lesbian,” says Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s executive director. “If she’s married, she’s attacked for neglecting her family. Either way, the issue becomes gender and sexuality rather than the merits of the issue under discussion.”

One result, says Ettelbrick, is that it becomes more difficult for women’s groups to support gay and lesbian rights. “It makes our natural allies more afraid,” she says. “We see female politicians retreat into self-censorship. Not only do campaigns go down to defeat, but leadership and vision suffer as well.”

The fact of the matter is that women organizing around the globe are hit with a level of hostility that American women cannot fathom. We may be fighting against our elected Cro-magnon representatives’ attempts to roll back the clock on Roe v. Wade, but we are not in the type of mortal danger women in many third world countries are. It’s disgusting. (Village Voice):

Lesbian- or feminist-baiting can turn threatening, even violent. Last month in Uganda, a coalition of women’s organizations were eagerly preparing a staging of Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues when the Ugandan government abruptly banned it.

Jessica Nkuuhe of Isis-Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange, one of the organizations involved, recalled her government’s rationale: “‘You can’t start addressing issues of the vagina. It’s a vulgar issue.'” When the play’s producers appealed the decision to Uganda’s Media Council, they were greeted with vitriol from religious fundamentalists on the radio and television, and in print.

One man came from one of the churches and said [on the radio that] feminists and homosexuals have a hidden agenda to destroy the culture of our nation and bring in the Western violence of homosexuality,” said Nkuuhe. “Some of the our organizations were labeled as led by lesbians and promoting lesbianism.” This is no small thing in a country where homosexuality is a deep-seated cultural taboo and remains a crime, offering gays virtually no protection.

FannyAnn Eddy, founder of Sierra Leone Lesbian & Gay Association, was strangled in her office in 2004.

Not all victims of lesbian-baiting are lucky enough to escape injury. Last September, FannyAnn Eddy, the founder of the first-ever gay organization in Sierra Leone was murdered as the result of her work.

To learn more about FannyAnn’s work (she left behind a 9-year-old son), visit the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice‘s web site. An interview with her is here, and an update on the case is at

Thanks to House Blend reader Cat for the pointer.

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Like I needed to read this foul NC story at this hour

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding